R&D Project Spotlight: Recycling of Plastic for Sustainable Food Packaging
The food industry is a vital part of the U.S. economy, and the food packaging market has experienced double-digit growth in recent years. The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the critical role that the food and packaging supply chain plays to ensure essential products continue reaching millions of consumers safely.
At the same time, food packaging containers account for 30% of waste generation in the U.S., and less than 50% of this volume is currently recycled. That recycling rate falls to under 30% for the types of multilayer food packaging targeted in this REMADE R&D project, including the brick-shaped cartons commonly used for a wide range of liquid foods including milk, juices, soups, sauces, and more. This multilayered packaging retains the product in a commercially sterile state for months or even years, but is difficult to recycle.
The R&D project team is working to develop a process by which these multilayer materials can be replaced by a single mono-material packaging solution produced from up to 100% recycled PET (the same plastic that water bottles are made from), which can be recycled back into the same or comparable products with minimal reprocessing, handling, and transportation. The team is validating the performance of materials and manufacturing process at industrial scale and conducting a recycling pilot with the support of a material recycling facility (MRF) to quantify recycling rates and recycled material quality.
Following the successful completion of the project, implementation is anticipated through the Ohio Safe Food & Packaging Initiative.
Plastiline, Wingate Packaging, The Ohio State University, SugarCreek, MuCell Extrusion, CIFT